Ethical Norms Ensure Scientific Research on Right Way

BEIJING, Nov. 29, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — This is a news report from Science and Technology Daily:

The ethical issues brought by science and technology development concern the security and destiny of humankind. The research ethics, which includes a broad set of standards, values, and institutional arrangements that regulate research activities, will help to ensure that researchers can be held accountable to the public. 

According to Zhang Wenxia, researcher at the Chinese Academy of Science and Technology for Development, the research ethics is about maximizing the benefits and minimizing the harm and risks that may occur in R&D activities.

To ensure effective ethical supervision of different sectors, China established the National Ethics Committee on Science and Technology in 2020. In the revised Law on Progress of Science and Technology, article 103 states the committee should perfect the ethical norms. Zhang said that strengthening ethical governance is an intrinsic requirement for promoting the sustainable progress of sci-tech innovation in the new development stage.

Enhancing ethics education

Article 103 also states the country would strengthen the ethics education and research, and improve the review, evaluation and supervision system.

Zhang said the research on ethics includes the study on the risks, cultures, laws, social influences and the communication with the public. And the ethical education not only covers the researchers and postgraduates, but also extends to the training of management ability of workers in charge of ethical review, and the cultivation of professional talent teams.

The research associations and societies are expected to play an active role in ethics education in their respective fields, added Zhang.

Completing ethical system

The research institutes, universities, enterprises and other public institutions are responsible for research ethics governance. The ethics review mechanism should be established and improved for reviewing the research activities, says article 103.

In this regard, Zhang explained that these organizations should establish a regular working mechanism, and be active to analyze and resolve the ethical problems that appeared in research activities in time.

As for the management of research activities, Zhang said the ethical review of research projects and papers involving animal use, human subjects, and living environment should be strengthened before being approved or published.

Zhang pointed out that many provinces in China have established or are establishing their committees for research ethics. To ensure a high-quality review, for the regions and institutes whose qualifications are not sound enough for a committee, a shared committee at a provincial level is an option.

China’s ethics is relatively mature in the fields of medicine and life science, and leads the world in artificial intelligence, said Zhang, suggesting that other key fields that are prone to ethical risks should formulate their own ethical norms as soon as possible, and adjust and improve them according to the new situations encountered in practice.

No pursuing benefits blindly

Risks and benefits are the two sides of research activities. Modern sciences, especially emerging technologies, are full of uncertainties.

The study and assessment of potential risks are needed before developing new technologies, and preventive measures should be put forward to tackle any emergency, said Zhang, noting that research should be suspended if the risks are higher than the actual benefits, such as the economic value and application prospects.

It also should be noted that a researcher can’t fully get to the bottom of research at the outset, said Zhang, adding that the research is like an iceberg. The deeper the research goes, the more the iceberg will rise to the surface. Facing new uncertainties during research, the researchers are required to have an ethical awareness in making decisions and adjusting strategies accordingly, so as to ensure responsible research for the welfare of humankind.